In aviation two things are unavoidable–- the FAA and high prices. The costs to get in, and stay in, aviation is high. (Higher than they should be). But sadly, that’s the nature of the beast. However, have no fear, there are many scholarships out there for student aviators. Today we will talk about aviation scholarships generally, scholarships for females, and other ways you might be able to fund your flight training.
Aviation scholarships can cover a vast array of fields and interests in the aviation world. Not only are scholarships for pilots but also mechanics and air traffic control personnel. Here is a list of potential aviation scholarships:
Prize Amount: $5,000 (1st) $2,500 (2nd)
Scholarship Submission: 1,500-word narrative essay
Requirements: Must be under 24 years of age.
This scholarship is put on in conjunction with AirFacts blog to commemorate the memory of famed aviation instructor and writer, Richard Collins. The scholarship is just a flat-out prize payment so it doesn’t technically even have to go to flight training. This scholarship is near and dear to this writer-pilot’s heart because in 2021 I won this award with a story of a date gone bad. I used this scholarship to help pay for my instrument rating.
Prize Amount: around $5,000
Scholarship Submission: Application
Requirements: Must be over 16 and not in a university-sponsored flight program
This is a unique scholarship. That’s because it’s not just one, but over 20 different scholarships combined into one application. Most notably, this scholarship page contains Harrison Ford’s Aviation Scholarship. The EAA’s page does not require you to be an EAA member, however, they do say applicants with an EAA membership will “stand out.” Use that however you want.
Prize Amount: $300-$500 (the price of one Discovery Flight/One hour Flight Instruction)
Scholarship Submission: Essay
Requirements: 14-24 years old
I included this one because I really like the story behind it. Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno was Thunderbird No.4, the slot pilot, in the USAF’s 2018 flight demonstration team. Sadly in a Thunderbird training session, Cajun passed away. However, his family has created a scholarship to insure Cajun keeps inspiring future aviators. While in the grand scheme of flight training, it might not cover much, it is still something. The essay contest centers around Cajun’s personal motto of success, the “4 P’s” (Passion, Purpose, Persistence, and Personability).
Prize: Undisclosed contribution to PPL training
Scholarship Submission: Application
Requirements: 16-23 years old
The LeRoy Homer Foundation Scholarship was founded in memory of one of the pilots on United 93, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field after heroes took back the plane from terrorists. The scholarship has been in existence since 2003 and has helped young people get their initial start in aviation. I searched the scholarship page backward and forwards, but couldn’t find the amount awarded to a winner.
Prize: $2,500 to $14,000
Scholarship Submission: Various
The AOPA is a leader in the aviation community. Part of their mission is to educate and they have various different scholarships to help do that. Like the EAA’s website. This scholarship application is a make-up of many other different types of scholarships with a wide array of skills and applicability. Check out their website for a full list.
Scholarship Submission: Application, which includes a YouTube video, essay, and references
Requirements: Junior or Senior in High School
This is one of the more generous scholarships out there. That is in part thanks to Piedmont Airlines using this scholarship as a feeder for their flight program. Given the size of the award, the application is pretty lengthy.
Additional Resources for Aviation Scholarships:
- AAERO Scholarship
- AeroClub of New England’s Scholarship Program
- Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA)
- Astronaut Scholarship Foundation
- Michigan Takes Flight Training Scholarship Program
- National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education (NCASE)
- Ohio Aviation Association’s Norman J. Crabtree Memorial Aviation Scholarship
- University Aviation Association (UAA)
Aviation Scholarships for Females
Women have a storied place in aviation history. Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, and Sally Ride are all aviation legends regardless of their gender. However, despite women’s contributions to aviation they still only represent a small part of the flying community.
According to the FAA, of the 691,691 pilot licenses in 2020, only 58,541, or 8.4% are issued to women. The disparity is even more prevalent in airline transport pilots where females only make up 7,549 or 4.6% of the 164,193 ATPs.
As in every field nowadays, there is a push for traditionally underrepresented minorities to come into aviation and a key way to do that is through scholarships. Here are some scholarships particularly aimed at women and girls:
This scholarship is put on by the 99’s, a famed group of aviatrix which was founded in 1929 by the legend who bears this scholarship’s name– Amelia Earhart. This scholarship strives to get more women flying. There is a catch to this scholarship, you need to be a 99’s member. The membership process is on their website and is not as lengthy or costly as you might think.
Women in Aviation International is a cohort of women flyers whose particular focus is on advancement in the commercial aviation industry. These scholarships are aimed at women who may already have their pilot’s license and are looking for advancements in their careers.
Other Ways to Fund your Flight Training
Many people may not qualify for some of the scholarships mentioned above. If so, there are other methods to help get flight training in unconventional ways. Here are some other ways to possibly fund flight training:
The Civil Air Patrol
The Civil Air Patrol or CAP as it is called is a civilian auxiliary of the Air Force. You might have even seen them at your local airport flying red and blue 172s. They were initially founded in They perform a variety of important functions like Search & Rescue and education. Joining the CAP is a good way to get a basis of knowledge for flying at a fraction of the cost. However, the CAP is not a flight school. Each unit is different and before joining you should double-check your local unit’s expectations and duties.
Being a Line Boy
This is how many pilots got their start in aviation–working as a lineman or at the front desk of your local FBO/flight school. It’s not glamorous, but it does teach you some important skills needed to be a pilot while also paying you. Don’t believe me? Check out this story about airshow pilot Bob Hoover’s incident with a line boy who put in the wrong type of fuel in the Shrike Commander. Pretty cool story.
Using non-aviation scholarships for aviation purposes
You might be scratching your head at this one, but trust me when I say there is a scholarship out there for almost anything. For example, the “Greater Than Gatsby” Scholarship gives out $1,000 for a picture of someone dressed like Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book. A lot of these foundations are overjoyed just to get one applicant. $1,000 here, $500 there and it starts to help make a serious dent in your flight training bill.
Something I did was “spin” a lot of these essay contests which did not have an aviation purpose, into ones that did. For example, I entered a college essay contest about American History. Initially, I was writing about Apollo 13. I then focused the essay on how I would use the prize money to start flying lessons to hopefully be like Jim Lovell. Amazingly, I won! People love airplanes, and they like to read about them. Airplanes are unique, different, and just flat-out cool. Using your story about aviation will help you stand out from a crowd of non-aviation essay contest writers. You might be more likely to win a contest doing this than applying to “aviation-specific” scholarships where everyone wants to be a pilot.
Thankfully, getting into flying can be made cheaper with these aviation scholarships. Angle of Attack is also committed to helping pilots get into the sky easier. We offer some of the lowest prices in the industry for our Online Ground School programs.
Michael Brown grew up flying on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, TN. He obtained his private pilot’s license in high school and has instrument and seaplane ratings. Michael graduated from Texas Christian University, where he founded the school’s flying club, with a double major in Business and Communications. He is currently a law student at Tulane University, studying transportation law. Michael was named the Richard Collins Young Writing Award winner and has had his legal writing recognized by the American Bar Association’s Air & Space Subcommittee. When he is not flying or studying, Michael enjoys riding his bike and cheering on his Atlanta Braves.
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